Exotic Drinks, No Cocktail Umbrellas Needed

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Like any tavern, the drinks are at least half the point at Yuki, the new Frenchmen Street hole-in-the-wall I reviewed this week.

Yuki is an example of an izakaya, the type of place where in Japan people typically go after work for drinks and snacks or light meals. I've never been to Japan, but when I e-mailed a description of Yuki to a friend of mine who lives in Tokyo he confirmed that it sounded a lot like the izakayas he frequents in his adopted home.

Instead of Buffalo wings, jalapeno poppers and fried mozzarella, patrons of izakayas -- in Tokyo or, now, the Faubourg Marigny – munch on yakitori , karaage-style fried chicken and sweet, grilled eel. And to wash it down, Yuki offers sake, the light, distilled liquor called shochu and an array of Japanese beers including more than few I have never seen before.

My new favorite from the latter category is an offering from the Hitachino brand. The white ale, served in a beautiful 22 oz. bottle (pictured above, at left), tastes like a Belgian wheat beer with bright flavors of orange.

Yuki also does a nice presentation with its sake. They start with a little glass and place it in a small, square wooden box. The glass is then filled to overflowing and the excess liquid is contained in the box like some kind of lagniappe sake pool.

These drinks prove worthy accompaniments to the often strongly flavored food, which can be intensely salty, spicy or both. Or maybe I have that backwards. Perhaps the food should really bethe foil for the drinks here. At an izakaya, it's hard to tell.

Here are a few more notes about Yuki if you decide to visit:

1) You should, the food is excellent and quite different from the normal Japanese cuisine available locally.

2) If you show up even a minute before the place opens for the night (7 p.m. these days) it will look not only closed but abandoned. Don't give up hope, though, once the doors open it's quite welcoming.

3) There's no indication that either of the two restrooms are reserved for men or women, but the one I seem to go into every time is wallpapered with a collage of retro '60's Japanese movie posters that gives the infamous men's room at Pal's Lounge a run for its money in the R-rated thrills department.

- Ian McNulty

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